Insomnia - A Chinese Medicine Perspective
What is Insomnia
The term “insomnia” covers a number of different problems, such as inability to fall asleep easily, waking up during the night, sleeping restlessly, waking up early in the morning and dream-disturbed sleep . Insomnia appear to be an increasing issue in modern society and not only affect people’s quality of life, but also impairs people’s working efficiency .
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Insomnia
From a TCM perspective, insomnia may be caused by one or more of the following:
- Psychological: i.e.: – Mental/Emotional factors such as over-worry, anger, frustration, resentment and irritation
- Physical: i.e.: – Lifestyle Factors such as overwork, Irregular/bad diet, trauma (e.g.: Extensive surgery, Childbirth, etc.
- Environmental: Post viral syndrome, Chronic fatigue syndrome
Any one or a combination of the above factors can affect organs such as the spleen, lung, heart or liver/gallbladder and lead to insomnia. The Chinese medicine patterns for insomnia fall into two categories: (i) Excessive conditions and (ii) Deficient conditions.
A close analysis of the patient’s symptoms will identify the particular TCM pattern underlying insomnia. For example, Liver-Fire (excess) may present with the following accompanying symptoms: Restless sleep, unpleasant dreams, nightmares, irritability, propensity to outbursts of anger, bitter taste in the mouth, headache, red face, thirst, dark urine, dry stools and dizziness.
On the other hand Heart/Spleen Blood deficiency may present with difficulty in falling asleep, palpitations, tiredness, poor appetite, slight anxiety, blurred vision, dizziness, poor memory, pale face.
Acupuncture, as one of the complementary and alternative medical therapies for insomnia, has been proved to be an effective method for insomnia in many clinical trials [3,4,5,6].
At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre we are ready to help. Simply call (02) 4573 0784 to discuss what approach is best for your issue.
What You Can Do to Help Yourself if You Have Insomnia
Keep regular sleep hours
Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will programme your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you’re likely to feel tired and sleepy.
Create a restful sleeping environment
Your bedroom should be a peaceful place for rest and sleep. Temperature, lighting and noise should be controlled so that your bedroom environment helps you to fall (and stay) asleep.
If you have a pet that sleeps in the room with you, consider moving it somewhere else if it often disturbs you in the night.
Make sure your bed is comfortable
It’s difficult to get restful sleep on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard, or a bed that’s too small or old.
Moderate exercise on a regular basis, such as swimming or walking, can help relieve some of the tension built up over the day. But make sure you do not do vigorous exercise, such as running or the gym, too close to bedtime, as it may keep you awake.
Cut down on caffeine
Cut down on caffeine in tea, coffee, energy drinks or colas, especially in the evening. Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep, and also prevents deep sleep. Instead, have a warm, milky drink or herbal tea.
Do not over-indulge
Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt your sleep later on in the night.
Do not smoke
Nicotine is a stimulant. People who smoke take longer to fall asleep, wake up more frequently, and often have more disrupted sleep.
Try to relax before going to bed
Have a warm bath, listen to quiet music or do some gentle yoga to relax your mind and body. Your healthcare professional may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation CD.
Write away your worries
If you tend to lie in bed thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow, set aside time before bedtime to make plans for the next day. The aim is to avoid doing these things when you’re in bed, trying to sleep.
If you cannot sleep, get up
If you cannot sleep, do not lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.
1. Marciocia, G. (1994) The Practice of Chinese Medicine: The Treatment of Disease with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs, Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
2. Zhao K. (2013). Acupuncture for the treatment of insomnia. International review of neurobiology, 111, 217–234. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-411545-3.00011-0
3. Zhang, M., Zhao, J., Li, X., Chen, X., Xie, J., Meng, L., & Gao, X. (2019). Effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for insomnia: Protocol for a systematic review. Medicine, 98(45), e17842. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000017842
4, Hayhoe S. (2017). Insomnia: can acupuncture help?. Pain management, 7(1), 49–57. https://doi.org/10.2217/pmt-2016-0025
5. Garland, S. N., Xie, S. X., DuHamel, K., Bao, T., Li, Q., Barg, F. K., Song, S., Kantoff, P., Gehrman, P., & Mao, J. J. (2019). Acupuncture Versus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia in Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 111(12), 1323–1331. https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djz050
6. Cao, H., Pan, X., Li, H., & Liu, J. (2009). Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 15(11), 1171–1186. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0041